Friday, July 18, 2008

NCLC - Online Collaborations

Shari McCurdy Smith, associate director of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Ray Schroeder, director, have worked together over the past half dozen years to foster collaborations among faculty members and institutions across the U.S. and beyond.

This blog was initially created as a "presentation" blog for the first meeting of the New Century Learning Consortium in Springfield, IL on July 21, 2008. It is hoped that this resource will expand and thrive with comments and additional postings of online collaborations among colleges and universities.

In many cases in this blog, the headlines of the postings are hyperlinked to relevant resources. Please click on the titles.

Online Collaborations - Endless Opportunities

Inter-Institutional Collaborations via the Web can take an endless variety of forms, from simple one-time guest speakers delivered via a web conferencing system such as Wimba or Elluminate to entire degree programs offered jointly by multiple universities.

  • Faculty exchanges can take place without leaving campus.
  • Student exchanges can happen without leaving dorms.
  • Joint certificate and degree programs can draw upon the strengths of faculty at different universities.
  • Faculty developmetn workshops can be delivered online across institutions.
  • Shared laboratories, libraries, and learning object databases , and collaborative writing opportunities.

What other kinds of collaborations might work? (please respond via comments)

Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities

With more than 50 member institutions, the OCICO has a mission "to advance academic opportunities for members by sharing online resources and coordinating collaborative activities among and between members." The consortium provides faculty development, software solutions, and a clearinghouse of courses that are shared online.

Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance

GP IDEA links a dozen state universities in delivering online collaborative graduate degree programs. This "award-winning multi-state alliance lead by Human Sciences Colleges, founded in 1994, as a means to create a marketplace for sharing distance education courses and programs at the graduate level. Combining today’s emerging technologies with program-based alliances, it utilizes the growing field of distance education to connect students around the country and afford them the opportunity to be admitted to one member institution and study at other member institutions via Internet-based courses."

WISE: Web-Based Information Science Education Consortium

WISE is a collaboration among 15 major universities offering Library and Information Science programs. This consortium is a unique and groundbreaking initiative in online education.

"Leading library and information science schools have extended their reach on a global basis to broaden the educational opportunities available to students. WISE uses advanced online technology to enrich education and foster relationships among students, faculty, and universities."

"The vision of this initiative is to provide a collaborative distance education model that will increase the quality, access, and diversity of online education opportunities in library and information science."

Individual Class Collaborations

Collaboration Matrix
Full Term Synchronous == Partial Term Synchronous == Single Session Synchronous
Full Term Asynchronous = Partial Term Asynchronous = Single session Asynchronous
Full Term Combination == Partial Term Combination == Single session combination

UIS - CSU Model

Online collaborations between Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Springfield began in 2001 with a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Working together in building faculty expertise in both the pedagogical and technological aspects of online teaching and learning, the two universities made campus visits and held workshops. The collaboration expanded into the offering of stipends to faculty members who began offering online team-taught classes. These included:
  • Meetings were held on both campuses (and via Web conferencing) to explain program to the faculty and to encourage collaborations
  • An online clearinghouse of faculty members and classes seeking collaborations to facilitating pairings
  • Team teaching agreements were developed by the pairs of teachers
  • Stipends (originally) of $1,500 for faculty members conducting semester-long collaborations and lesser amounts for shared modules
  • Students sign up at home institution
  • Shared Blackboard site
  • Some synchronous meetings via Elluminate
  • Faculty members graded own students but provided materials, interaction, and answered questions from all
  • An evaluation report was submitted by both faculty members after the term

UIS - CSU Example A

Undergraduate K-12 pre-service (CSU) and Graduate in-service (UIS) Education class merged online

  • UIS EDL 547 / CSU T&ED 394/G
  • Shari McCurdy / Patrice Boyles
  • 20 UIS students / 8 CSU students
  • 6 week long project
  • Synchronous – Elluminate
  • Bi-weekly to weekly interactions among students and faculty members in planning and implementing technology survey project

UIS - CSU Example B

Internet and American Life class
  • UIS PAC 442 / CSU OC-Ed 391.51
  • Ray Schroeder / Charles Savitt
  • 29 UIS students / 6 CSU students
  • Full semester – team taught – merged discussions
  • Asynchronous – Blackboard
  • Synchronous – Elluminate
  • Daily to weekly interactions among students and faculty members
  • Notable benefits on differences in the impact of the Internet in urban and rural lives

UIS - CSU Collaboration Outcomes

This collaboration resulted in many successes for students and faculty members. Overall, the idea of merging classes between an urban university featuring a high percentage of minority students with a relatively rural university with a high percentage of non-minority students resulted in expanding the horizons of all of the students. Some notable collaborations took place. The program expanded to include Northeastern Illinois State University.

Findings: Best Practices Asynchronous

Among the best practices we identified:

  • Identify and address licensing constraints with vendors
  • Begin faculty joint planning at least one full semester before offering
  • Share teaching styles and important areas of instruction for each individual
  • Review assessment options and priorities (develop shared syllabus)
  • Work out details of responding to students in advance
  • Which faculty member responds at what time to which students (anytime? All?)
  • Pre-plan how to handle disagreements between students – disagreements between faculty
  • Establish parallel schedules for responses, posting of grades, etc.
  • Plan for plenty of sidebar discussions via email/phone between faculty members (weekly or more often) - perhaps using wikis or Google docs

Findings: Best Practices Synchronous

Among the best practices we identified:
  • Establish license and vendor restrictions (if any)
  • Establish netiquette for the synchronous classroom ahead of time
  • Be sure class is well prepared to use the tools
  • Allow participants extra time prior to session start to perform audio/video tests
  • Make sure user privileges are as equal as possible
  • Establish recording procedures
  • Plan for plenty of sidebar discussions via email/phone between faculty members
  • Understand that there may be students who could be overwhelmed by the need to speak into a microphone and hear their own voice
  • Open classroom to avoid scheduling problems
  • Consider using asynchronous tools such as Google docs or wikis to assist in organizing


Digital online collaborations in higher education are just in their infancy. But, it is becoming clear that there are significant advantages to collaborations that will be realized in the near future:

  • Break down geographic, cultural, and institutional barriers
  • Globalize the curriculum
  • Promote diversity - broader understanding
  • Sharing of resources – laboratories, libraries, hardware, software, and more
  • Sharing of faculty and staff expertise
  • Create opportunities for under-enrolled classes
  • Stretch the curriculum - enabling more degrees to be offered by more institutions